Re: [rumori] Seeland again

From: Peter Conheim (
Date: Mon Dec 18 2000 - 00:17:47 PST

>So they don't charge you ANYTHING? That amazes me.


I'd rather discuss Seeland business off the list after a certain
point, but I'm a bit perplexed by these questions and if it's helpful
to others I'll try to briefly summarize what we do:

Our distributor is Mordam Records. They are our exclusive
distributor, i.e. they are the sole seller of our releases on the
pre-retail level, and even handle our web site's direct orders with
credit cards. We "pay them" by the process of having them take a
percentage of the sales, just like your local record store marks up a
release by 35% or so and pays themselves that amount.

>What's stopping an artist
>from going directly to a distributor for a release then, and
>bypassing a label? Do you
> have to be a label for a distributor to put your stuff out?

Nothing stops you, or anyone, from sending a CD sample to a
distributor and asking if they'd like to carry it. Whether the
distributor will take your CD (and whether they will pay you
afterwards if the item sells) is another matter.
A label I co-founded in 1991 called Electro Motive Records/Qualipy
( historically has had bad luck
with distributors; they don't know how to sell our weird stuff, or
they are criminals and don't pay you when they've long-ago sold it.
Of course, plenty of labels have good experience with distributors
(Seeland and Mordam has been a fantastic relationship, for instance).
But if you're small-fry, it's an uphill battle, and extremely

>I thought the last time I was talking to Don about it, you guys
>needed a certain dollar
>amount down, aside from the fact you needed to approve of the release.

We generally ask for the artists on our label to allow us to hold a
certain, agreed upon amount of their initial sales, which we keep in
the bank to cover when the artist gets a bunch of unsold CDs charged
back to Mordam, and in turn to Seeland. This is inevitable. The
entire Negativland back catalog gets product returns on a monthly
basis; even our best sellers go unsold in some places and wind up
being returned to our distributor, at which time we go into the red
with those copies. The same thing happens to any artist on our

Seeland does NOT pay to manufacture our artists' CDs. The artists
do. Thus, our risk is less and we take hardly anything in profit
(the aforementioned 7%). This is practically unheard of in the world
of record labels, which not only take a much bigger percentage of
sales for themselves, but tend to own releases in perpetuity...
etc... etc... etc... In any case, we release very few CDs a year and
we reject many submissions.

Compilations are notoriously tough to sell. They're often sold at
lower retail prices (e.g. the ultra-budget Illegal Art series).
Compilations and tribute CDs are everywhere. The original Droplift
had a serious "angle", though with an entirely different end result.
Would a distributor take CDs from you to try to sell if they know
you'll be "droplifting" other copies into stores gratis? My guess is
a hearty-chuckled "highly unlikely".


Rumori, the Discussion List
to unsubscribe, send mail to
with "unsubscribe rumori" in the message body.
Rumori list archives & other information are at

Home | Detrivores | Rhizome | Archive | Projects | Contact | Help | Text Index

[an error occurred while processing this directive] N© Sharerights extended to all.